Cult Labs

Go Back   Cult Labs > Blogs > Philleh

Rate this Entry

Dario Argento: Broken Mind

Submit "Dario Argento: Broken Mind" to Share On Facebook Submit "Dario Argento: Broken Mind" to Share via Twitter Submit "Dario Argento: Broken Mind" to Share With StumbleUpon
Posted 18th April 2009 at 12:59 PM by Philleh

Yes, I'm in work and I'm very bored - can you tell?

Here's an essay I completed on Dario Argento, it's not great but it got me the pass I needed! ha.

Hope you enjoy it!

Dario Argento: Broken Mind

I’m going to talk about a man who has had a career outside of the Hollywood machine for almost five-decades. He’s made some of international cinema’s most iconic thrillers and even penned a few classics outside of his favoured genre, such as Sergio Leone’s seminal Once Upon a Time in the West with Bernardo Bertolucci.

His name? Dario Argento.

Quite how the Italian auteur has lasted nearly fifty years making movies in his native Italy without the influence of Hollywood is solely down to his enviable roots in film. Being the son of producer Salvatore Argento, he has relied on his father for funding since his highly acclaimed directorial debut in 1969 with Bird with the Crystal Plummage. Salvatore would go on to produce all of Argento’s work until his 1982 thriller Tenebrae. After the demise of his father, Dario's younger brother, Claudio became his new producer-partner on all his subsequent features.

Dario Argento is highly regarded for his work within the 'Giallo' genre. An Italian variation on the German 'Krimi' genre that was inspired by pulp novels typified by British authors such as Edgar Wallace and Dame Agatha Christie. The literal translation of 'Giallo' is yellow, but the films themselves resemble typical murder mysteries/thrillers in which some unsuspecting Joe is caught up in a murder after witnessing the act. They then become the prime suspect for the ever unhelpful police force, having to clear their name by doing the detective work and catching the real killer.

Although Argento is still very much an active film-maker: his latest feature starring Adrian Brody, simply titled Giallo, is due out sometime in 2009, he hasn't maintained the same pedigree level that lasted him nearly twenty years from the beginning of his career. An attempt at making a movie in America was disastrous for the film-maker; who was already uneasy about filming outside of Italy. He's not returned for feature-length work since, but his following work back home was not much better and the critical response to his latest work has seen the auteur take quite a panning.

One film that has received almost universal acclaim, however, is the director’s first attempt at making a supernatural horror movie, a movie that was voted 100th greatest film of the 20th century by a Village Voice critic’s poll, published on 4th January 2000.

Bad luck isn't brought by broken mirrors, but by broken minds.”
- Dr. Frank Mandel (Udo Kier)

The above line is taken from Dario Argento's most successful film; 1977's Suspiria. The story revolves around a young American ballet dancer named Suzy Banyon, played by Jessica Harper, who travels to a prestigious dance academy in Freiberg, Germany. Once there, she soon realises that all is not what it seems, students are disappearing and no-explanations are provided from the teachers, only dire excuses. Suzy finally realises that she isn’t just in a dance academy, but a coven run by ancient witches, feeding off the young dancers who refuse to conform.

Suspiria is a nightmarish masterpiece that propelled Argento to the forefront of international horror. The above line from the movie perfectly captures Argento's approach to his cinema, it's not what the eye sees that terrifies us, it's what the mind sees. The opening set-piece alone is as accomplished as anything put on to celluloid by Alfred Hitchcock or Nicholas Roeg – and that’s just the opening act! The terrifying score from Italian Prog-rock group Goblin beautifully compliments the images onscreen, as well as heightening the audiences’ anxieties. Argento has also managed to create, what could possible be, the scariest looking airport in cinematic history. The use of vivid colours, mostly exaggerated neon reds and greens, are emphasised further by Argento’s decision to use the classical imbibitation Technicolor print, popularised by The Wizard of Oz and other golden-era colour classics. This lends the film a beautifully surreal look, a look that helps the audience identify and understand Suzy’s confusion, whilst getting under the skin and planting an uneasy feeling of dread to match the foreboding atmosphere the film generates.

A bold decision, such as this, would not have been allowed by a Hollywood studio. The time and the cost, not to mention the rarity of the process during this period, would have been too costly and time consuming for the business minded suits. Having complete artist control over his project, something that Argento has always prided himself on, has been the greatest asset for his career. Having this freedom hasn’t just helped Argento, as he has helped the careers of other like-minded directors. For instance, Argento and his brother agreed to finance one of American cinemas greatest satires; Dawn of the Dead. Allowing George A. Romero a level of control that would otherwise be unthinkable had it been produced by a studio. The result speaks for its self.

One of the key successes for Suspiria is in its all-woman cast. Ahead of the curve in many ways, especially in a previously male dominated genre, Argento created a movie with a spectrum of female characters. Almost fairy-tale like in its depiction, the characters vary from cold, conniving, calculated and to a degree; fascist (Miss Tanner’s desire to eradicate those who show strong will, or more importantly, refuse to conform to her agenda) to frightening naivety (Suzy and her staggered realisation as to what she is caught up in). The fairy-tale parable is also promoted by the overall feel of the film, which is reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland in many ways. It contains all the trappings of a calssic fairy-tale; the descent of innocence, the corrupting forces and ultimately said innocence’s defeat over the intruding menace.

Argento has summed the film up far more fittingly than I ever could, speaking to journalist Alan Jones in his Argento tome Mondo Argento (1996 – p.19) the director states “Fear is a 370 degree centigrade body temperature. With Suspiria I wanted 400 degrees!” The film was a worldwide success, Argento’s biggest to date, with talks of a Hollywood re-make planned for a 2010 release. It’s to be directed by David Gordon-Green and will star -Natalie Portman as Suzy. Argento, however, will have no part in the production.

Reference List. (2000). 100 Best Films – Village Voice. Available at

Gallant, C. (2001) (Revised Edition). Art of Darkness: The Cinema of Dario Argento. Surrey: FAB Press.

Jones, A.(1996). Mondo Argento. Upton: Midnight Media Publishing.

Jones, A. (2004). Profondo Argento. Surrey: FAB Press.

McDonagh, M. (1991). Broken Mirrors, Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento. London: Sun Tavern Fields.
Posted in Uncategorized
Views 1140 Comments 0 Edit Tags Email Blog Entry
Total Comments 0


Post a Comment Post a Comment
Total Trackbacks 0


Our goal is to keep Cult Labs friendly. If you feel discouraged from posting by certain members' behaviour then you can e-mail us in complete confidence.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8
Copyright ©2000 - 2023, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Search Engine Optimization by vBSEO 3.6.0 PL2
All forum posts are contributed by members of the site; Cult Labs cannot take responsibility for all content posted on the site. If you have an issue with content posted on the site please click the 'report post' button.
Copyright © 2014 Cult Laboratories Ltd. All rights reserved.